Sermon 2. “The Religion of the Pharisee, the Religion of Mankind”

In this sermon Newman criticizes the religion of the Pharisee or the religion of the day as being “often very beautiful on the surface, but worthless in God’s sight; good, as far as it goes, but worthless and hopeless, because it does not go further, because it is based on self-sufficiency, and results in self-satisfaction.” This type of religion seeks external excellence, such as a superficial command of the passions and the exercise of a few virtues, without any real knowledge of Almighty God, and one’s sinfulness and dependence on God.

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2 Comment(s)
  • Ron Snyder Posted March 7, 2016 11:03 am

    Fr. Juan,
    You most certainly have a knack for identifying classic sermons that sum up entire bodies of Newman thought. Written simultaneously with his classic discourses on university education “The Religion of the Pharisee, the Religion of Mankind pointedly summarizes Newman’s Discourse 8 “Knowledge Viewed in Relation to Learning.” This sermon (and discourse) is an exposition of why Newman is a witness to our contemporary world. His understanding of the timeless features of the human mind is on full display: “But, generally speaking, man is contented that conscience should tell him very little, perfection lay in merely answering the demands of society. He is satisfied with public opinion.” Newman will forever remind us that without a call to holiness “Virtue then is something external; it has little to do with conscience and the Lord of conscience” and that “The religion of the natural man in every age and place is often very beautiful on the surface, but worthless in God’s sight… it is worthless because it is based on self-sufficiency, and results in self-satisfaction.”

    Thank you Fr. Juan for your reminder to sharpen our interior lives so that we can more fully participate in holiness.

    • Fr. Juan Velez Posted March 8, 2016 11:44 am

      Ron, as you point out Newman identifies so well how virtue is no substitute for religion. It becomes a religion unto itself. All of Newman’s preaching points towards holiness, starting from man’s dependance on God.

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